Mainline Inspection Services: A Case Study

By: Patrick Hooper

If you’ve been to our website, read our blog, or hired us to perform an inspection, you know what Mainline Inspection Services is all about. Our objective is to provide honest, unbiased assessments of sanitary infrastructure and storm water lines and consult on a full range of the most cost-effective methods of repair and maintenance.  We function as an information-gathering resource that helps protect our customers from spending money unnecessarily. As the owner of Mainline Inspection Services, nothing gives me greater satisfaction than hearing back from a happy customer.

When a sewer line has severe root infestation, minor bellies, slightly offset or separated joints, or any number of other issues, a recommendation for a complete repair or replacement is not necessarily an unreasonable recommendation. But what often gets overlooked are the less-invasive, less-expensive options that a commissioned-based salesperson may not be incentivized to recommend.

It isn’t unusual for M.I.S. to be contacted by a homeowner who has already received multiple quotes for a sewer line repair or replacement, some of which can be as high as $10,000 or more. With difficult economic times leading to shrinking home values and diminished equity, securing financing for such repairs can be a challenge. The good news, however, is that the most-expensive option isn’t always the only, or even the best option.

We recently performed a video inspection on a main sewer line in a house that was more than 100-years-old. After more than 30 years in the home, this was the first line backup the customer could recall experiencing. Given the age of the home, the owners were expecting the worse, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t suspect the same.

Early in the examination, with our camera just about 20 feet into the sewer lateral; we discovered that severe root infiltration was the cause of the problem. The roots were so thick and dense that the camera almost couldn’t make it all the way through the line. We also noticed, however, that the clay pipe looked to be in excellent condition. The main issue appeared to be some separation in the joints where the roots seemed to be making their way into the pipe.

Though far from ideal, roots in a sewer line are not an insurmountable problem. As long as the pipe is not collapsing—which would be evidenced by cracks and breaks (this line had no evidence of any such damage) —and the joint separations aren’t severe, the roots can be cleaned out and managed. So, we advised our customer on both a maintenance and repair option.

  • Maintenance: Because of the severity/thickness of the roots, we recommended a hydro-jet rather than an auger—which is a way of cutting and clearing roots out with a high-pressured stream of water—followed up with a root maintenance chemical (to be reapplied once or twice a year).
  • Repair: Because the pipe ran under both a garage and a driveway, the repair option we advised on was a pipe re-line. Avoiding the removal and replacement of the concrete and asphalt surfaces under which the line ran made a re-line a much more cost-effective alternative than a full excavation and replacement of the lateral.

The cost to re-line 50+ feet of sewer pipe was estimated to be $9,000 to $11,000. The cost of hydro-jetting can range from $400 to $900, and the chemical root management treatment might add another $100 to $150 to the total bill.

We heard back from the very happy home owners about a week after the inspection, following the hydro-jetting of their sewer line. They were pleased to report that the pipe was completely clear and flowing. The hydro-jet cost $600 and the chemical treatment just about $100. And as long as they keep up with the application of the treatments, the sewer should not need to be jetted again for several years, if not longer (depending on variables like soil conditions and the aggressiveness of the roots).

This is the value of being informed—of being educated about all the options available to you. This is the value of working with unbiased, objective professionals—regardless of their industry. Knowledge is empowering.  This is what we do.